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July 2014

posted 6 Aug 2014, 01:56 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 6 Aug 2014, 02:09 ]
thistle gall

It is amazing what you can see, if you look close enough! On a recent work party we noticed that some of the creeping thistle had developed swellings or galls. I had never seen anything like this before and so sent a photo to Staffordshire Ecological Records, who confirmed that this gall contain the larvae of the thistle gall fly, Urophora cardui. This very distinctive fly lays its eggs on creeping thistle and the emerging larvae burrow into the stem of the thistle, which then causes the gall to form. What is exciting is that this is only the 6th recording of thistle galls in Staffordshire!

cinnabar moth larvae

Following on with an insect theme, many of you may have noticed brightly coloured yellow and black caterpillars feeding on ragwort at this time of year. These are the larval stage of the red and black cinnabar moth. What is interesting is that the caterpillars absorb the toxic chemicals produced by the ragwort (alkaloids) and in doing so become unpalatable to any predator e.g birds. So the yellow and black colours of the caterpillar, whilst being very distinctive, are also a warning sign predators "do not eat me"! Because ragwort is toxic to cattle, we do have to remove it, each year, from the Green.

yarrow

One of the plants that is flowering on the Green at the moment is yarrow. Whilst this common plant can be easily overlooked, a close up of the flower head yields some incredibly delicate structures. For anyone who is into herbal medicine then yarrow will be a very familiar plant. It has been used for thousands of years as a herbal remedy, from staunching wounds to helping with fevers and digestion. Definitely more to this plant than meets the eye!